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Whirling Pinwheel Quilt Block Pattern

From our Free Quilt Block Patterns Library

The Whirling Pinwheel quilt block tutorial starts here...

Skill Level: Confident Beginner

Grid: 6x6

Our Whirling Pinwheel quilt block instructions will keep you from spinning out of control with a combination of techniques.

We'll paper piece the center with the same pattern used for our Virginia Reel block.

With its 8 half square triangles (HST) the Whirling Pinwheel is the perfect block to practice a new technique. Perfect units every time. Stitched up in a jiffy!

You may know this design by another name—possibly Rolling Pinwheel, Pinwheel Star, Rolling Pin or plain old Wheel.

Now it's time for us to get a move on. Grab two fabrics and let's roll!

Construction Instructions

Pieced units should first be pressed flat. (This sets the seam, melding the thread into the cotton fibers.) Then open it, pressing from the front to minimize tucks at the seam allowance (SA).

This finished block can be a bit lumpy, so take a minute to review our 'secret' trick for the hands-down flattest blocks you'll ever see. It works even with paper attached. Now THAT'S sweet!

All seam allowances are 1/4" unless otherwise instructed.

Step 1: Download the paper piecing pattern

You'll need to print two Virginia Reel units (VRU) per block. To open and print the paper piecing pattern, you need Adobe Reader installed on your computer. You can get it here (a new window opens so you can download without leaving this page). Follow their download instructions.

To start, choose a Finished Block Size from the chart below.

To print the pattern, locate the row called 'Print Virginia Reel pattern'. Find the underlined number at the intersection of this row and column . For our 9" finished Whirling Pinwheel quilt block, it's 6".

Select the underlined number at the intersection. Click to open it in Adobe.

To print the patterns at the correct dimension, under 'Page Sizing and Handling' in the Adobe print menu, you MUST set 'Custom Scale' to 100%. (Here you can see what it looks like on the Adobe Print Menu page).

Print a total of two VRUs.

Step 2: Cutting the patches

Whirling Pinwheel quilt block drawing

All that's needed is a light and a dark fabric.

For good definition in the design choose fabrics with enough contrast. Large prints generally won't give good results.


In the sample block I've used a directional background fabric. If you do the same, cut two of the #12 patches on the lengthwise grain and two on the crosswise.

When you subcut the #4/#8 squares lay them out with the fabric design going in one direction. On two, cut the diagonal from NW to SE and two from NE to SW.

If your Fabric A is directional, then cut the #2/#6 patches as above. The rest will take care of itself.

Patches #1-#8 are all subcut. Check the last column of the chart for that information.

Time to cut your patches!

Finished Block Size
Qty 6” 9” Sub Cut
1, 5 Background 1 3-5/8”x3-5/8” 4-5/8”x4-5/8” Symbol for a quarter square triangle
2, 6 A 4 2-3/8”x2-3/8” 2-7/8”x2-7/8” Symbol for a half square triangle
3, 7 A 1 3-5/8”x3-5/8” 4-5/8”x4-5/8” Symbol for a quarter square triangle
4, 8 Background 4 2-3/8”x2-3/8” 2-7/8”x2-7/8” Symbol for a half square triangle
9 Background 4-1/4”x4-1/4” 5-1/4”x5-1/4” --
10 A 4-1/4”x4-1/4” 5-1/4”x5-1/4” --
11 Background 1-1/2”x1-1/2” 2”x2” --
12 Background 1-1/2”x2-1/2” 2”x3-1/2” --
Unfinished Block Size 6-1/2” sq 9-1/2” sq--
Print Virginia Reel pattern 4” 6” --
Trim VRUs after stitching to...2-1/2”x4-1/2” 3-1/2”x6-1/2” --
Midpoint 2-1/8” 2-5/8” --
Trim HST to...1-1/2”x1-1/2” 2”x2” --
Grid Size 1” 1-1/2” --

Step 3: Assemble the Whirling Pinwheel quilt block

The Dutchman's Puzzle unit used in making the Whirling Pinwheel quilt block

For this paper pieced unit, an open toe applique foot makes seeing the sewing lines much easier. Install one if you've got it. Reduce your stitch length to 15-18 stitches per inch to make removing the paper easier at the end.

This unit is a Virginia Reel quilt block which is already in our Free Quilt Block Patterns Library. 

Click here for the detailed and illustrated instructions to complete both units for our block. Complete Steps 2 and 3 on that page. When finished, use the back arrow on your browser bar to return here.

After the sewing is complete, your center looks like this.

The finished Virginia Reel portion of our Whirling pinwheel block


Make 8

Reset your stitch length for regular piecing. Install a standard quarter inch foot.

On the back of the #9 square draw two diagonal lines from corner to corner. I use a mechanical pencil because it makes a fine line from end to end.

Sew a 1/4" away from both sides of both lines. Press flat to set the seams.

Find the Midpoint measurement from the cutting chart. (For this 9" sample, it is 2-5/8".)

Align that mark on your ruler with the edge of the sewn unit. Cut the unit in half. Turn your cutting mat a quarter turn and repeat. At this point, you have four squares. Cut each apart on the drawn diagonal line.

Press and trim to the measurement found in the chart above.

If you need more detailed instructions for this technique, visit Technique #4: Make 8 Triangle Squares in a Jiffy.  Use the back arrow on your computer's browser bar to return here.

Make the side units

Sew the background side of a HST to each short side of a #12 rectangle. Press with SA toward #12. Repeat for the 3 remaining sets.

Prepare the side unitsMake 4

Add a #11 square to each end of two of these units. Press with SA toward

Prepare the top and bottom row patchesMake 2

Lay out the pieced patches into rows.

Lay the pieced units out into rows

Sew the side units to the center. Press SA so that they will nest with the top and bottom rows.

Stitch the units of the center row together and press.

Stitch the rows together. After one last session at the ironing board, your Whirling Pinwheel quilt block is finished!

The finished Whirling Pinwheel quilt block

Ready for more quilting fun!

All sorts of ideas whirling about in your head. Looking for more quilt blocks to make? Then...

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